Faculty & Staff
Learning at Columbus Jewish Day School is a transformative and joyful experience thanks to our remarkable teachers. Both our faculty and staff are drawn to CJDS because they want to inspire students with love and excitement for learning, which they themselves model every day. Our teachers seek to make a difference in every child’s life.
Kylon Armstrong – Maintenance
Kylon Armstrong is a Columbus native, and has experience working at a cleaning business with his Uncle. Outside of his role at CJDS, Kylon has a passion for playing basketball (he can't wait to get back out on the court after corona passes!), loves to play video games and enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking up delicious desserts!
Fun fact: Kylon's favorite treat to bake is Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Annelyn Baron – Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Kindergarten
Annelyn, the Jewish Studies kindergarten teacher, is a founding teacher of CJDS. She is very proud of her pioneering role in the school and has taught Jewish education to two generations of Jewish children in Ohio. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Cincinnati, and brings deep experience -- both to the Kindergarten classroom and the school as a whole -- to her role as Coordinator of Jewish holiday Programming, which includes planning CJDS’ unique all-school Kabbalat Shabbat assemblies. Before coming to CJDS, served for over 21 years as the Pre-Kindergarten teacher at the preschool of the Leo Yassenoff Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus and as an Art Specialist for many years at Jewish summer camp. was awarded the Jeffrey and Lori Lasday Jewish Educator of the Year Award in 2000 and has been selected several times to travel with contingents of CJDS staff to Israel, on Kivunim, the Institute of Experiential Learning for Israel and World Jewish Communities Studies. has also been a part of the Educators Delegation to Israel, a connection between Jewish Educators in Columbus and our sister city of Kfar Saba. enjoys gardening with her husband, celebrating holidays with extended family, and entertaining friends in their home. She especially loves it when her children come for weekend visits, and when she gets to play with her two grandchildren.
Jodi Senser Benningfield – General Studies, Grade 1
Jodi has been teaching for 15 years and has taught Pre K, 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th grades both at Kenton County public schools in the Cincinnati area and at the JCC New Albany Preschool. While at the JCC, she also served as the Judaics specialist and has taught religious school at Temple Beth Shalom for the past three years. Jodi is very excited to be teaching first grade! Her Master's degree work from Xavier University is in Reading and Literacy, and she has a passion for reading and books that she loves to instill in her students. Jodi lives in Westerville with her two boys. She loves art, music, theater, and nature.
Brent Bloomster – School Behavioral Consultant
Dr. Brent Bloomster, a Licensed Psychologist and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, has been working closely with CJDS students and supporting our teachers since 2014. Across his extensive career of over 30 years in the behavioral health field, he has worked with both children and adults in various settings, including in both public and private schools, community mental health agencies, a residential treatment center, and a community corrections facility. Brent holds a Ph.D. in Counselor Education with Doctoral Equivalence in Psychology from The Ohio State University, a B.A. in Psychology from Taylor University and a Master’s Degree of Education in Counselor Education from Temple University. “. B,” as he is affectionately known to CJDS students and teachers, delights in seeing the investment that goes into each student’s education at CJDS and supporting staff in their efforts to educate the whole child. Drawing on a variety of areas of training, Brent works with CJDS students individually, in small groups and in whole classes, in addition to consulting with faculty one-on-one and in small groups. He has a love of humor, adventure, outdoors, travel, nature, wildlife, bicycling, and camping. He enjoys basketball and tennis, board games, and singing. Originally not fond of heights and water, he turned this around and has participated in rappelling, high ropes courses, and whitewater canoeing. Married for over three decades, he is a parent of three young adults and now a grandparent!
Farryl Briston – Virtual Math Teacher, Grade 4
Farryl is excited to be returning to CJDS this year as our Virtual 4th Grade Math Teacher. Farryl previously taught Kindergarten at CJDS before moving to FL in 2018. She has taught in both Jewish and general education in Florida, Ohio, and New York.
Farryl has taught a variety of elementary and middle school grades, but her passion remains with Jewish day schools. She is attracted to the students’ insatiable curiosity about themselves and the world they live in. She loves to harness this curiosity into great learning. Farryl relishes those sweet moments when a student’s struggle of learning transforms into a feeling of confidence.
Farryl’s professional vision is rooted in her conviction that being a part of the network of people who are helping prepare our world’s next leaders and changers is among the most significant work that can be done. Outside of school, Farryl has two beautiful children (and a wonderful husband) who she loves to spend her time with.
Amanda Chernyak – Front Office Assistant
Amanda Chernyak holds a Bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University and has over 7 years of administrative experience in both the medical and school settings. Amanda strongly believes in the power and importance of education, as well as the safety of our students. She will go above and beyond for all the students, families and staff. Outside her role at the CJDS, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, and being able to watch her kids participate in sports. She also likes to cook, travel, and cheer on her favorite Ohio sports teams.
Susan Couden – Art Teacher, K-5
Susan is a founding faculty member at CJDS, and has served as the school’s visual art teacher since 1998. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts with a focus on drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture. Susan has also completed graduate level coursework in art education, folklore, architecture, and grant writing. Combining so many diverse talents and disciplines, Susan continues to be the most instrumental thought leader behind CJDS’ cutting-edge model of curriculum integration. In her role as Coordinator of Curriculum Integration, Susan leads weekly integration team meetings by grade that have become essential to the school's philosophy, facilitating connections among math, science, language arts, visual arts, P.E., music, Jewish text, values, Hebrew language, environmental education, and symbols and moral lessons of the day. Susan’s own artwork is a testament to her talent and passion as a Jewish artist in her own right, and the urge to integrate all the various parts of herself is in her very DNA. Susan also pioneered the development of a number of special programs at the school, including a student-led extracurricular Tzedakah Club in which 3-6 graders research worthy causes and determine how best to support them. She is honored to be a new advisor for the Better Together initiative, a program which uses environmental education to help feed and connect to older members of the local community. A member of a large and diverse family, she is the oldest daughter in a family of seven children and the mother to a blended family of ten children. Thirteen grandchildren call her Savta.
Alex Damico – General Studies, Kindergarten
Alex Damico, a Columbus native, received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Ceramics from Ohio University. Shortly after graduating he moved to California to work with Americorps as a literacy intervention and afterschool group leader. This experience led him to realizing his love of teaching. Alex then completed his Master’s in Urban Education with a concentration in Early Literacy from Loyola Marymount University in Southern California through the Teach for America program. Alex moved back to Columbus with his wife, a CJDS Alum, to continue his teaching journey. He has taught 1st and 5th grades over the past seven years, and is excited to be back in the classroom as a Kindergarten teacher! In Alex’s free time he enjoys baking cookies, developing film, and hiking with his dog Rye. Alex is looking forward to getting to know the CJDS community, learning with the Kindergarten class, and having a great year together!
Angelo Dunlap – Music Teacher, Grades K-5
Angelo Dunlap is excited be the music teacher here at the Columbus Jewish Day School. He came to CJDS with over ten years of teaching experience in a Jewish setting. He has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The Ohio State University. He also serves as a religious school educator and as a Youth Coordinator at Temple Beth Shalom where he received the Torah Ora Award for providing an outstanding learning environment. He also brings over a decade of experience at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus. Angelo believes that music is a fundamental language that helps us express ourselves and that it is the task and duty of music teachers to help each student find and use their voice, whatever it may be. He also believes that music serves a powerful role of bringing a community closer. He feels like he is the luckiest teacher because he gets to teach Jewish music and its history at Columbus Jewish Day School, learning and singing together with students and colleagues. Music is his passion and he tries to make use of its connective abilities whenever he can. In his free time, Angelo plays piano and guitar for Temple Beth Shalom’s services. He also enjoys late night long boarding through Bexley. You can often find him in a coffee shop with friends.
Julie Ecker – General Studies, Grade 2
Julie graduated from the Teaching All Learners program at Indiana University where she learned to implement effective strategies associated with teaching in classrooms with students having a wide range of abilities. She is credentialed with a dual license in elementary and special education. Julie is drawn to the developmental stage of eight- and nine-year-olds, when students are actively transitioning to a more intellectually abstract curriculum. She derives great satisfaction from witnessing the immense strides students take in reading and math at this stage of their education. Julie loves the collaborative atmosphere that permeates CJDS, and was drawn from the very beginning to its warm and welcoming faculty and staff. Julie’s involvement in the Columbus Jewish community also includes her role as the advisor to Congregation Beth Tikvah’s youth group, BethTY. In her spare time, she enjoys playing golf and traveling. Julie is also a board game devotée, and is convinced that game-playing is a great tool for learning.
Rachel Feldman- Learning Specialist
Rachel grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and received her Bachelors from the University of Georgia in Early Childhood Education. After completing her undergrad, Rachel went on to earn her Masters in Reading with a Reading Specialist Certification from Columbia University – Teachers College. Rachel worked as an educator in New York City for five years, and her first job was teaching Kindergarten. She went on to become a Reading Specialist for grades 1-5 at a charter school in Brooklyn, New York.
Rachel is trained in many reading programs including - Orton and Gillingham and Reading Rescue. She recently moved to the Columbus area with her husband Jason, and her new puppy Teddy. Outside of the classroom, Rachel enjoys going to Broadway shows, and traveling. She is so excited to be the Learning Specialist and join the CJDS community!
Katie Feldstein – Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Grade 2
Katie began at CJDS as a graduate intern and has now taught Hebrew and Jewish Studies for over 16 years in either first or second grade. With a Master’s in Education in Elementary Education from The Ohio State University, Katie is certified in Ohio to teach K-8. Her own upbringing and Jewish education instilled a passion to impart her love for the Hebrew language and Jewish religion, along with guitar, music, and dance, to her students. Her favorite ways to do this are through song, dance, and dramatic presentations. Katie believes so strongly in the child-centered and integrated approach at CJDS that she and her husband enrolled their son who graduated from CJDS in 2019. Outside of school, Katie enjoys singing, dancing, reading, and spending time with Sam, Jonathan, and the family dog, Chewie. Katie was thrilled when her parents moved back to Ohio in 2015 and chose to live nearby; they can often be found volunteering at CJDS.
Gina Freeman (PhD) – Science Specialist, Grades K-5
Gina Freeman holds a Doctorate, Master’s and Bachelor’s of Science Degrees in Education with Minor Degrees in Management and Human Resources, Health Education and Biological Science from The Ohio State University. She also holds licensure in School Administration, Physical Education, Adapted Physical Education, Health Education and Biological Science. As a founding faculty member who also served as Dean of Students, Gina has always been drawn to CJDS’s whole-child, learner-centered, integrated education. She is driven by her passion to help every child reach his/her full potential. Gina is a military veteran and was awarded the Medal of Merit which is the highest award for a non-combat soldier. Gina enjoys gardening, volunteering, reading, yoga, walking, camping, fishing, sewing, and kayaking with close family and friends.
Ari Friedman – Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Grade 1
Arielle (Ari) Friedman’s Bachelor of Arts is in Jewish Studies from The Ohio State University. Her teaching career began in Cincinnati as the Judaics teacher in the Kindergarten class at Rockwern Academy community day school. Since moving to Columbus, she deepened her experience and quickly expanded her expertise as a Hebrew and Judaics instructor, teaching at the Columbus JCC preschool, where she was the lead Judaics teacher in the Nitzanim class. A native Hebrew and English speaker who grew up in a Hebrew-speaking home, Ari also served as the Director of the Chaverim B’Ivrit, a summer Hebrew immersion camp experience which is a nationally recognized model program for JCC’s around the country. A voracious learner, she has attended multiple intensive training seminars where she has gained skill and understanding for teaching Hebrew in Day School and in immersive settings, where she has developed leading edge skills and experience in Hebrew language instruction. Her philosophy of Jewish education is grounded in a firm belief that Judaism and the Jewish people are diverse, and believes we have the joy and privilege of learning from those differences, by valuing and embracing that diversity. She appreciates and identifies with this pluralistic emphasis at CJDS. Outside of school, she spends much of her time with her family and fiancé and enjoys hiking, music, fitness, cooking delicious meals, and always challenging herself to be better.
Sheri Gittins – General Studies Grades 3, and General Studies Chair
Sheri has taught children ages Pre-K through 6th grade over the last three decades. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and was fortunate to be named Educator of the Year by the Columbus Council of Parent-Teacher Associations. Sheri has taught at The Columbus Academy, Wellington School, Columbus Public Schools, and served as the Director of the JCC New Albany Preschool for six years (2012-2018). She has enjoyed leading seminars and supervising student teachers for The Ohio State University. Sheri has proudly spent the last 10 years of her journey as a teacher leader in a Jewish setting. Committed to both progressive education and progressive Judaism, she is thrilled to get to apply her hands-on, project based learning, integrated curricular approach at CJDS. In her life outside of school, Sheri enjoys spending time with her two college aged kids. She also loves cooking, interior design, playing the piano, participating in various volunteer organizations and walking on the beach.
Glenn Henry – Building Maintenance
Glenn comes to us after a long career in the computer support environment. He has always been a DIY’er, and has many years of experience in remodeling and updating his residences using his plumbing, electrical, and carpentry skills. He is thrilled with the new position because it presents something new and challenging each and every day, enabling him to use his vast experience to resolve them. In his off hours, you’ll find Glenn cheering on the Ohio State Buckeyes during football season. Glenn resides along the Hoover Reservoir where he loves to kayak with his family and friends. He lives with his wife and son, three dogs and two cats, and loves the serenity of living in the woods along the reservoir.
Yehudit Kanfer – Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Grades 3
Yehudit’s teaching career began in New York City in the late 1970's with a rich array of positions, most notably at the distinguished Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, which provides Talmud study to women under Orthodox auspices. Yehudit believes that the education of young children is a sacred enterprise upon whom the future of the Jewish people hinges. She was drawn to CJDS because of its mission, which is committed to teaching children to connect their Jewish identities through (in Heschel's words) "the art of asking the right questions" and to empower them to act upon their responses to those questions. Yehudit has been a faculty member at Columbus Jewish Day School for almost two decades, and has taught Hebrew and Judaic Studies to students in almost every grade. She was awarded Columbus’ “Jewish Educator of the Year” for 1996, and was the recipient of the 2009 Shin Award from the Jewish Theological Seminary for her contributions to the Agudas Achim community. She has been working with students from kindergarten through high school since 1977, including teaching day school for nine years at Columbus Torah Academy. Yehudit holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary and has completed course work for a Ph.D. Concurrently, she earned a B.A. in Classical Languages from New York University, and spent a year at Hebrew University’s Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora. When she is not teaching, you can find Yehudit jogging or biking along the streets of Bexley. She enjoys spending time with her far-flung family, including her daughter and two sons, and her grandson, along with extended family in New York and Ann Arbor.
Debbie McMunn - Art Teacher, K-5 (Transitioning In)
Debbie McMunn received her Bachelor’s degree in Art and Design and minor in Graphic Design from the College of Design at North Carolina State University.
Although her early work focused on interior and furniture design, she quickly developed a love for teaching and has spent over 5 years in the classroom in various capacities including teaching kindergarten in Florida.
Always up for an adventure, Debbie served as first mate and Head of Homeschool aboard her family’s sailboat for a year long sabbatical sailing the US East Coast and Caribbean. After exploring over 13 countries with her husband of 18 years and two daughters, the family returned to land life and is now proud to call central Ohio home. Debbie enjoys volunteering with local charities, playing tennis, gardening and raising her two wonderful daughters.
Kristina Palma – Physical Education, Grades K-5
Kristina teaches physical education and health in grades K-6. She graduated from Bowling Green State University with a B.A. in Physical Education and an adapted physical education minor, with a focus on modifying sports equipment to meet the individualized needs of athletes with disabilities. Upon graduation, she earned her Certificate in Health Education from Capital University. Before joining the CJDS faculty in 2010, Kristina taught and coached in Westerville schools. She was attracted to CJDS because of the curriculum and the amazing students, faculty, and parents. Kristina is driven by a passion to make physical education so enjoyable for the students that they will want to continue to be active for life. It is not uncommon for CJDS students to see Kristina at hockey games or diving competitions. Kristina’s passions are weight lifting, snowboarding, boating, hiking, and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle.
Jenna Rodier – Teaching Intern
Jenna holds a Bachelor of Arts in Hebrew and Judaic Studies and recently graduated Summa Cum Laude from The Ohio State University. As a CJDS alumna, Jenna understands the special culture of the school and is passionate about giving students the wonderful experience she had. Jenna has taught Hebrew, Judaic Studies, and Bar/Bat Mitzvah lessons privately, for the past three years, and teaches at Temple Beth Shalom. She works to customize each lesson for students and is passionate about developing new ways to increase student engagement.
Jenna has worked in Israel at an Israeli startup and was in the Wexner Service Corps’ Senior Leadership cohort. Jenna loves working with kids and has taught theatre at Jewish sleepaway camps. Outside of teaching, Jenna enjoys acting and entrepreneurship, holding a minor in both. Additionally, Jenna enjoys traveling and teaching her puppy Tazo new tricks.
Eran Rosenberg – Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Grades 4th & 5th
Eran serves as Jewish Studies Coordinator and teaches Hebrew language and Jewish Studies, grade 6. Born and raised in Israel, Eran began his professional career as an organizational and occupational psychologist evaluating educational systems and instruction, both in Israel and abroad. A former tank commander in the IDF, Eran is now passionate about being a Jewish Educator in Columbus, and promotes the love of learning with all his soul and all his might. Eran devotes countless hours to offering every one of his students a fully experiential, personally relevant, and intellectually rigorous Jewish education. He has developed numerous creative pedagogical and curricular resources, many of which have been featured in workshops in Columbus and beyond. Eran regularly incorporates creative play into his teaching methods and, accordingly has amassed an impressive collection of masks and costumes to engage his learners in new and exciting ways all the time. He was awarded the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education and the Lasday Jewish Educator of the Year Award (2010). Eran is a founding member of the National Association of Teachers of Hebrew and is involved with developing and sharing educational materials across the field of North American Jewish day schooling. Eran is also active in the Jewish life of Columbus, serving on the steering committee of the Partnership Together Program (a program connecting Kfar Saba, Israel, and the Columbus Jewish communities), offering B’nai Mitzvah instruction, chanting Torah at a variety of synagogues, conducting children’s programs, serving and leading on community holiday planning committees, and acting in local community theater. Eran especially enjoys hosting friends in his home for meaningful Shabbat and holiday meals.
Lori Sachs – Building Substitute Teacher
Lori was born here in Columbus and studied at The Ohio State University after a gap year in Israel. She has been teaching since she was in high school and still enjoys working with kids of all ages.
Lori is married to Ed, who she met while living in Omaha, Nebraska. They have one son, Eric, who attended CJDS in the early days. Eric is now living in NYC.
Besides teaching religious school at Congregation Tifereth Israel, Lori keeps busy volunteering and reading. She has kept a list of the books she has read for over 20 years -- and she just passed 330 books. Lori also loves to travel and looks forward to being able to do that again soon!
Jennifer Swetnam – Speech Pathologist
Jennifer Swetnam is a Speech/Language Pathologist with Northrup and Associates. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from The Ohio State University and a Master’s Degree from the University of Akron. She holds a license from the Ohio Board of Speech/Language Pathology and Audiology and the Ohio Board of Education. Jennifer also has a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Prior to working at Northrup and Associates, Jennifer worked at Bridgeway Academy with students on the autism spectrum. Jennifer provides screenings, evaluations and treatment for all areas of communication: articulation, receptive and expressive language, language processing, voice, fluency, and pragmatic/social skills. Jennifer is passionate about teaching speech and language skills, particularly social language, and enjoys finding fun and creative ways to teach her students. She looks forward to providing CJDS classroom lessons focusing on social communication. Jennifer and her husband enjoy biking, hiking, traveling, and spending time with their friends and family.
Joanna Vilensky – General Studies, Grades 4th and 5th
Joanna received a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College, a Master of Arts from The University of Chicago’s Divinity School, and a Master of Science in Education from Northwestern University. She has lived all over the country, from California to Pennsylvania, racking up teaching licenses in four states. She happily returned to her hometown of Columbus two years ago. She loves encouraging kids to think deeply about the world and ask as many questions as possible. Joanna also loves teaching because it allows her to be a lifelong learner and believes she learns the most from her students. The warmth of CJDS and the holistic approach to education impresses her and is aligned with her own philosophy and values. Outside of school, you can see Joanna with her head in a book, writing, playing with her two kids, working out, baking, and camping.